Eight Mississippi State students recently traded classrooms and campus residence halls for the decks and bunks of a research ship sailing the Gulf of Mexico.
The wildlife and fisheries majors were part of a weeklong collaborative project between the university and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel Gordon Gunter, they conducted trawl surveys off the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana coasts to determine the status of marine fisheries resources and environments.
The 2001 MSU team included William Cupit of Rosepine, La.; Ben Davis of Belmont; Rohasliney Hashim of Penang, Malaysia; Randall Kidwell of Crossville, Tenn.; Jason Olive of Florence, Ala.; Sara Palmisano of Pearl; Sam Shephard of Galway, Ireland; and Matt Thomas of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Davis, Olive and Palmisano are seniors; the others are pursuing master's degrees.
"The students gained experience in sampling techniques, fish handling and identification, and collection of environmental data, among other topics," said Donald Jackson, the department of wildlife and fisheries professor who directs the program. "They also became oriented to the disciplines of living and working at sea on a research vessel."
The fall semester experience marked the fourth consecutive year such hands-on training has been offered by the College of Forest Resources as a component of Jackson's fisheries science course. Prior to sailing, participants must complete water safety and survival swimming training, also conducted by Jackson.
A division of NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service supports international fisheries management operations, trade and industry organizations, and conservation and enforcement efforts, among others.